The number of fatalities in the waste and recycling industry declined in 2014, to 27 from 33 the year earlier, according to new government data.
The industry remained the fifth most dangerous profession, according to a news release from the Washington-based U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Here are nine takeaways from the government’s annual report on fatalities by occupation, as it affects the waste and recycling industry.
- Industry fatalities dropped in 2014 after rising in 2013. The 33 deaths in 2013 was a jump from 26 in 2012, but a decline from the 34 in 2011.
- The waste and recycling industry moved up to the fifth most dangerous profession in 2013 from sixth the previous year. It remained in that spot in 2014.
- In 2014 the fatal work injury rate was 35.8, which climbed from the previous two years. The rate is based on the number of fatalities per 100,000. Last year’s rate compares with 33.0 in 2013, 27.1 in 2012 and 41.2 in 2011.
- The four professions more dangerous than waste and recycling remained unchanged for the second straight year. Logging continues as the most dangerous, with a fatality rate of 109.5 and 77 deaths. Following logging is fishing, aircraft pilots and flight engineers, and roofers.
- David Biderman, executive director and CEO of the Silver Spring, Md.-based Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), says in an interview on the results: "I’m pleased that there was a reduction in the number of collection worker fatalities, but I’m puzzled over the increase in worker fatality rates. It wasn’t as if the industry shed and shed a lot of workers last year, so I think we need to explore the data set that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has developed a little more, to understand whether we’re making real progress. But the real bottom line here is that we’re still the fifth most dangerous occupation in the United States. And 27 is still too many worker fatalities. We need to keep in mind that not only are people dying on the routes, but we have workers getting killed in transfer stations, landfills and recycling centers. And mechanics are getting killed in maintenance shops.”
- He says SWANA is going to continue to expand its efforts to provide safety resources to everybody in the industry. “Public sector, private sector, U.S. or Canada, coast to coast. That message has been well received by SWANA members … and we hope to continue to provide useful safety training and resources in the coming year.”
- The Washington-based National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) noted the larger historical trend. Fatalities reached a 12-year high in 2003, then fell by half by 2007. Since then, fatalities have been trending upward.
- “The lower rate of fatalities shows that the collective safety efforts of the solid waste and recycling industry may be an indicator of positive progress, but the fact that the percentage rate of fatalities is up underscores the need for a continued relentless focus on lowering the rate of accidents, injuries and fatalities,” said Sharon Kneiss, president and CEO of NWRA.
- NWRA has championed “Slow Down to Get Around” legislation, which now is law in nine states. Like SWANA, the association has made safety a priority with that and several other initiatives.